Lannan Foundation is a family foundation dedicated to cultural freedom, diversity and creativity through projects which support exceptional contemporary artists and writers, as well as inspired Native activists in rural indigenous communities. This site is for our audio and video podcasts.
Recorded at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico on September 11, 2019.
Boots Riley is a provocative and prolific poet, rapper, songwriter, producer, screenwriter, director, community organizer, and public speaker. He is the lead vocalist of The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club. His directorial debut, the comedy-fantasy-sci-fi film Sorry to Bother You, premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Fervently dedicated to social change, Riley was deeply involved with the Occupy Oakland movement and was one of the leaders of the activist group the Young Comrades. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Tell Homeland Security—We Are the Bomb.
This was a Readings and Conversations event.
In this episode, Boots Riley joined Robin D. G. Kelley in conversation.
You may learn more about this event on the Lannan website; you may also listen to the audio recording of this event there. Photos from this event are available on Flickr.
Recorded at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico on May 1, 2019.
Sebastian Barry is a novelist, poet, and playwright. His latest book, Days without End (2016), tells the story of Thomas McNulty, a 17-year-old fleeing the Great Famine in Ireland by enlisting in the U.S. Army in the 1850s. He is sent to fight Sioux and Yurok Indians and, ultimately, fights in the Civil War. The central love story of the novel is between two men and was inspired by Barry’s son’s homosexual relationship. Of his son’s relationship, Barry states, “I look at them and I think, ‘This is not something that needs our tolerance, this is something we should be emulating. There is magnificence here of soul.'”
The New York Times calls Days without End “a dreamlike Western with a different kind of hero.” He is “an orphan, a refugee from Ireland’s Great Famine, a crack shot, a cross-dresser and a halfhearted soldier, but mostly he’s in love with a young man.” In the novel Barry writes, “A man’s memory might have only a hundred clear days in it and he has lived thousands. Can’t do much about that. We have our store of days and we spend them like forgetful drunkards.” Days without End won the 2017 Costa Book of the Year Award, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the Independent Bookseller’s Award.
Barry’s plays include The Steward of Christendom (1995), Our Lady of Sligo (1998), and The Pride of Parnell Street (2007). His novels include A Long Long Way (2005); The Secret Scripture (2008), named Novel of the Year by the Irish Book Awards and Costa Book of the Year; and The Temporary Gentleman (2014). He has won, among other awards, the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize, the Independent Booksellers Prize, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. A Long Long Way and the top-10 best seller The Secret Scripture were short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. He was born in Dublin in 1955 and lives in County Wicklow, Ireland.
Recorded at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico on April 17, 2019.
Ruth Wilson Gilmore is director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics and a professor of geography at the City University of New York. She is most famous for arguing that the movement for abolition, with its proud history of challenging slavery, should be applied today to the abolition of prisons. In an era when 2.3 million people are behind bars in the United States, she challenges us to think about whether it is ever necessary or productive to lock people in cages.
She warns of the “nightmare made palatable by the terrifying numbers of prisoners and prisons produced by the last generation, while we were all, presumably, awake.” But her hope lies in the fact that “just as real was the growing grassroots activism against the expanded use of criminalization and cages as a catchall solution to social problems. In order to realize their dreams of justice in individual cases, the [freedom] riders decided, through struggle, debate, failure, and renewal, that they must seek general freedom for all from a system in which punishment has become as industrialized as making cars, clothes, or missiles, or growing cotton.”
Gilmore wrote Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (2007) and contributed to The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (2007). The American Sociological Society honored Gilmore with its Angela Davis Award for Public Scholarship in 2012. A tireless activist, she has cofounded many social justice organizations, including the California Prison Moratorium Project, Critical Resistance, and the Central California Environmental Justice Network.
Recorded at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico on March 27, 2019.
Edwidge Danticat is the author of several books, including Krik? Krak!, a collection of short stories that encompass both the cruelties and the high ideals of Haitian life. Danticat’s 2004 novel The Dew Breaker spins a series of related stories around a shadowy central figure, a Haitian immigrant to the United States who reveals to his artist daughter that he is not, as she believes, a prison escapee but a former prison guard and skilled torturer.
When asked about being a role model for Haitians, Danticat replied, “There are millions and millions of Haitian voices. Mine is only one. My greatest hope is that mine becomes one voice in a giant chorus that is trying to understand and express artistically what it’s like to be a Haitian immigrant in the United States.” Danticat was born in Haiti and moved to the United States when she was 12. She currently lives in Miami with her family. She received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2009.
She has received much praise and recognition for her story collections and novels, beginning in 1994 with Breath, Eyes, Memory (an Oprah’s Book Club selection) and continuing through to The Dew Breaker. In that book, her lyrical writing explores equally atrocities and kindnesses, as it moves between the modern United States and the Haiti of memory, quietly and deftly revealing the horrors of the past in prose that is liquid and arresting. Paule Marshall has said of Danticat, “A silenced Haiti has once again found its literary voice.”
Danticat is the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States (2003), The Beacon Best of 2000: Great Writing by Men and Women of All Colors and Cultures, Haiti Noir (2010), Haiti Noir 2 (2014), and Best American Essays 2011. Her memoir Brother, I’m Dying was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography.
Her most recent book is The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story (2017). The New York Times said, “This book is a kind of prayer for her mother—an act of mourning and remembrance, a purposeful act of grieving… Danticat writes beautifully about fellow writers, dissecting their magic and technique with a reader’s passion and a craftsman’s appraising eye… As a grieving daughter, she wants to understand how others have grappled with this essential fact of human existence; and as a writer—a ‘sentence-maker,’ in the words of a DeLillo character she wants to learn how to use language to try to express the inexpressible, to use her art to mourn.”
Recorded at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico on March 13, 2019.
Dahr Jamail is an award-winning author and journalist. In 2003 he was one of very few unembedded journalists in the early stages of the Iraq War. He has written for Le Monde Diplomatique, the Guardian, the Nation, the Huffington Post, the Sunday Herald in Scotland, and Foreign Policy in Focus, and has contributed to Democracy Now!, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera English, the BBC, NPR, and numerous other radio and television stations around the globe. In 2008 he was awarded the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, and in 2018 the Part Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College awarded him an Izzy for his “path-breaking and in-depth reporting,” work that exposed “environmental hazards and militarism.” He is the author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (2007), The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (2009), and The Mass Destruction of Iraq: The Disintegration of a Nation: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible (2014).
Jamail is now a senior investigative journalist for Truthout.org. There he reports on climate disruption in the Anthropocene, digesting the most cutting-edge scientific evidence for a socially conscious and activist lay audience. His new book The End of Ice (The New Press, 2018) looks at the effects of climate disruption as he witnessed them firsthand as a young mountain guide on Denali. He writes, “On the one hand, the experience of being on ice that is thousands of years old and often hundreds if not thousands of feet thick is humbling. The accompanying awe of this reality, coupled with the sheer beauty of these landscapes carved by and now covered with glaciers is not to be missed… [but] witnessing these dramatic impacts from anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) first-hand always feels like a gut punch to me. My climbing partners and I shook our heads at the spectacle, then carried on to the edge of the glacier in order to unrope and ascend the moraine.”
Recorded at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico on February 27, 2019.
Richard Powers is the author of 12 novels. These works employ multiple narrative frames to explore connections among disciplines as disparate as photography, artificial intelligence, musical composition, genomics, game theory, virtual reality, race, business, and ecology. He has said, “Science is not about control. It is about cultivating a perpetual condition of wonder in the face of something that forever grows one step richer and subtler than our latest theory about it. It is about reverence, not mastery.”
His novels include Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance (1985), inspired by German photographer August Sander’s 1914 image of the same title; The Gold Bug Variations (1991), a double love story of two young couples separated by a distance of 25 years; and The Echo Maker (2007), whose main character, Mark, suffers a traumatic brain injury in a car accident and becomes convinced that the woman who looks, acts, and sounds just like his sister Karin is actually an imposter.
His most recent book, The Overstory (2018), is a tale of activism and resistance, about the secret language of trees and the people they bring together to save the last few remaining acres of virgin forest. In the New York Times Book Review, author Barbara Kingsolver called it “monumental… The Overstory accomplishes what few living writers from either camp, art or science, could attempt. Using the tools of the story, he pulls readers heart-first into a perspective so much longer-lived and more subtly developed than the human purview that we gain glimpses of a vast, primordial sensibility, while watching our own kind get whittled down to size… A gigantic fable of genuine truths.”
His fiction and speculative essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, Grand Street, the New York Times, Conjunctions, Granta, the Guardian, Common Knowledge, Wired, Tin House, Zoetrope, Paris Review, the Believer, Best American Short Stories, and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His work has been translated into 16 languages. In 2010 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Powers’ books have won numerous honors, including the Rosenthal and Vursell Awards, the James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians, the Corrington Award, a PEN/Hemingway Special Citation, the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature, and two Pushcart Prizes. The Gold Bug Variations was named Time magazine’s Book of the Year. Powers is a MacArthur Fellow, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a recipient of a Lannan Literary Award. He won the W. H. Smith Literary Award (UK) for best novel of 2003 and the Ambassador Book Award from the English-Speaking Union in 2004. The Echo Maker won the 2006 National Book Award. In 2014 Powers was among the first Americans long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.
Recorded at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico on February 6, 2019.
Tracy K. Smith was appointed the 22nd United States poet laureate in 2017 and was reappointed for a second term in 2018. During her first term, Smith gave readings and led discussions as a part of a pilot project in rural communities in New Mexico, South Carolina, and Kentucky. She has continued to pursue engagements in small towns across America, stating, “Poetry invites us to listen to other voices, to make space for other perspectives, and to care about the lives of others who may not look, sound or think like ourselves.” Her poem “The United States Welcomes You” begins:
Why and by whose power were you sent? What do you see that you may wish to steal? Why this dancing? Why do your dark bodies Drink up all the light?
Her memoir Ordinary Light (2016) was described by the Guardian as “A powerful meditation on being a daughter and, by the end, on being a mother, too.” In it she writes of her mother’s impending death: “When the dark outside was real*not just the dark of approaching winter, and not just the dark of rain, which we’d had for days, too*her dying came on. We recognized it. We circled her bed, though we stopped short of holding hands, perhaps because that gesture would have meant we were holding on, and we were finally ready to let her go.”
Smith has published four books of poetry: Wade in the Water (2018); Life on Mars, which received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and was selected as a New York Times Notable Book; Duende (2006); and The Body’s Question, winner of the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard, earned her MFA at Columbia, and was a Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University from 1997 to 1999. She is the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor in the Humanities and director of the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
Recorded at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico on January 23, 2019.
Ilan Pappé is an expatriate Israeli historian and socialist activist, educated at the University of Jerusalem and the University of Oxford. He founded the Academic Institute for Peace in Givat Haviva, Israel, and was its director from 1992 to 2000. He was also chair of the Emil Tuma Institute for Palestine Studies in Haifa. His 2016 book The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories received the Palestine Book Award. He has published 17 other books and is currently a professor at the University of Exeter.
Pappé’s research contextualizes the history of Palestine into a larger global context of settler colonialism. His historiography challenges the dominant Israeli narrative. He writes, “Standing idle while the American-Israeli vision of strangling the Strip to death, cleansing half of the West bank from its indigenous population and threatening the rest of the Palestinians…”inside Israel and in the other parts of the West Bank…”with transfer, is not an option. It is tantamount to ‘decent’ people’s silence during the Holocaust.”
This was a Readings and Conversations event.
In this episode, Ilan Pappé talked about his work, then joined Dima Khalidi in conversation.
Recorded at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico on October 24, 2018.
David Harvey, a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, has taught Karl Marx’s Capital and its contemporary application to students and members of the public for 40 years. “Once you can hang a price tag on something,” he argues, “you can in principle put a price tag on anything, including conscience and honor, to say nothing of body parts and children.
His most recent book is Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason (2017), and his A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005) is considered a primer on that critical topic across academic fields. He is the author of 27 other books. Harvey is responsible for transforming urban geography into a cutting-edge field that attracts leading scholars who ask big questions and study interconnected systems of power. Having received his PhD from the University of Cambridge, he is a fellow in the British Academy and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Recorded at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico on October 11, 2018.
The Reverend William Barber, pastor at Greenleaf Christian Church and president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, led the Moral Mondays movement of weekly protests and civil disobedience against the discriminatory and conservative policies of North Carolina governor Pat McCrory, and against the celebrations of Confederate history that still plague the South.
Barber recently helped organize the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Standing on the shoulders of the Poor People’s Campaign organized by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, the program involved 40 days of direct action for racial, economic, gender, and environmental justice in 2018. Economic inequality in the United States has reached record levels. The actions of the federal government and local police officials have laid bare the legacy of racial terror and family separation that the country was built on. The Reverend Barber’s movement addresses the root causes of these interrelated issues.
Barber is the author of The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement (2016) and two other books. He also founded the organization Repairers of the Breach. His guiding principle is that “fusion coalitions rooted in moral dissent have power to transform our world from the grassroots up.” Cornel West says, “William Barber is the closest person we have to Martin Luther King Jr. in our midst.”